Cong asks oil companies to explain rationale behind price hike

New Delhi, Jan 17 (PTI) With its ally TrinamoolCongress protesting petrol price hike, Congress was today onthe backfoot over the issue asking oil companies to put outthe rationale behind the increase in public space as it hadagitated people.

Though speaking disapprovingly of the increase inpetrol prices by Rs 5 in a month, the party remainednon-committal on whether the policy of administered pricemechanism needs a re-look.

While party leaders speaking on the condition ofanonymity said that hike in petrol prices is bound to happencorresponding to the rise in iternal pricing of petroleumproducts, party Spokesperson Manish Tewari told reporters,"but a Rs 5 hike in one month does seem a tad unfair".

Tewari said, "It is incumbent upon companies to putthe justification in public space. What is the rationale ofthat increase must be told to the public... It does rightly soagitate the mind."

The Congress spokesperson, however, refused to givedirect answers to questions on whether the party now viewedthat the issue of decontrol of petrol of prices need to berevisited saying "it''s a policy matter. I cannot answer".

"I don''t think any government or any company wouldlike to unnecessarily burden common people. But the reasonsfor this increase must be properly put in public space and Iam sure if the reasons are not proper, the government democracy it is incumbent upon government andpublic sector companies to explain the rationale of any suchdecision," Tewari added.

He was replying to questions on why the party was notgiving a clear view on the issue of price mechanism forpetroleum products.

"It will be a case of putting the cart before thehorse," he said when asked whether the party would ask thegovernment to reconsider the issue of administered pricemechanism in the wake of hikes in petrol prices in the lastfew months.

On Mamata Banerjee''s strong reaction to the hike,Tewari said Banerjee or any other ally is expressing thesensitiveness towards common men and recalled that CongressPresident Sonia Gandhi had also flagged the issue of inflationduring the party''s plenary and expressed her concern.

Maintaining that "inflation was an issue of concern",Tewari said that Gandhi had "specifically said that thegovernment needed to work on it".

A party leader speaking on the condition of anonymitysaid that one could not run away from the reality.

"If prices of oil increase in international market andoil companies here do not hike the rates, the government willhave to give subsidies, which will increase deficit andresult in hike in prices of commodities. If petrol pricesare increased, it is the real consumers who are directlypaying for their use." PTI AMR SPG

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